Fear and the induced states of anxiety stemming from those fears are interwoven into the fabric of addictive behaviors and the recovery process. Fear of the new, different, and unknown has the potential to spark unsound behavioral reactions for everyone. For individuals with addictive disorders, there tends to be an even higher degree of fear-based responses. Some individuals with addictive disorders even go so far as to refer to the pull of addictive behaviors as fear.
Most fears and even anxieties are based on completely rational and valid reactions to past harm, especially in addiction recovery patients. Past trauma and bad experiences can fuel present-day reactions to safeguard the self from further harm. Many of the inclinations that initially motivate addictive behaviors and the desire to self-medicate are rooted in the fear-based perceptions of past harm and resultant trauma. Perception is the dirty word here for individuals with addictive disorders. Even valid reactions to avoid harm tend to get exaggerated over time, perpetuating those original anxieties into further motivations for self-medication. This cycle of mental illnesses feeding into addictive disorders and vice versa will often persist until initial sobriety can be achieved and maintained for an extended period.
Fear of Change and Facing the Realities of Sober Living
Fear of the unknown for many in addiction recovery begins with being unaware of their addictive disorder as a medical condition itself. The reactions only further snowball into even more fear and anxiety as their condition worsens. On top of the unknown, many in addiction recovery also cope with fear and anxiety stemming from natural reactions of self-preservation to trauma. These fears and anxieties only tend to persist as the addiction recovery process begins — fears of change, facing repercussions from past actions, sobriety, and socializing without substance misuse. By taking the illicit substance out of the equation, individuals in addiction recovery can begin to confront their fears rather than running away from them. Individuals in addiction recovery should remember that running away or self-medicating because of fear and anxiety only perpetuates those states of being. You can not confront and absolve fear with further fear and anxiety.
Anxiety-Induced Addictive Behaviors
Anxiety can be much more difficult to manage for individuals in addiction recovery. Once again, anxiety does not have to be framed in a completely negative light. The overall function of anxiety is to signal our body’s natural fight or flight systems to react to potentially dangerous situations. No wonder many individuals still misusing substances report increased anxiety as well as higher percentages of panic attacks. The constant substance misuse puts a physical strain on the body as well as the mind. Wires become crossed, and induced states of anxiety occur with no apparent threat to the conscious mind. When the apparent threat to the mind and body is not so tangible, many will report unnecessarily feeling panic or increased anxiety without perceiving a real and present danger.
Those with addictive disorders generally are either not aware of their actions being harmful or more likely actively denying that their actions are causing these increased states of anxiety. The body is functioning properly, warning addiction recovery patients of the dangers of their substance misuse. By actively ignoring such warnings, individuals with addictive disorders throw their natural systems of “fight or flight” out of order. Minor grievances can then spark irrational panic-induced reactions as the body and mind are confused about what is or what is not a threat. Of course, in these scenarios, many will turn to self-medication techniques such as alcohol or drug use that have worked in the past to calm the nerves. These self-medication techniques may bring some initial calm, but they ultimately exacerbate the panic in future contexts. Short-term gains equal long-term harm for those with addictive disorders. By removing substance misuse, the body will begin to normalize, and much of this irrational induced panic will wash away.
When experiences of socialization create heightened states of anxiety, many individuals will resort to the use of illicit substances to calm the nerves and facilitate ease of conversations. For those prone to addictive disorders, the primary source of initial addictive behaviors stemmed from socialization, and they must now confront socialization without the supposed aid of illicit substances. This poses a unique dilemma that many will have to resolve through ongoing therapy once leaving rehab. Social anxiety is a mental health disorder that can be better explored with a trained therapist or through medication once individuals achieve initial sobriety. Sobriety allows those with addictive disorders to finally address and seek treatment for this co-occurring issue of social anxiety.
Coping Skills to Reduce Anxiety and Fear
- Meditation: Mindfulness meditation can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety-based reactions. The practice promotes an increased self-awareness that shapes the mind’s eye inwards, focusing the recipient’s attention toward the present moment.
- One Day at a TIme – Reframing your perceptions to only the present and making small goals can help individuals in addiction recovery place fears and anxiety out of reach and help them manage by taking things on one at a time. Much of anxiety and fear are based on future states and the anticipation of waiting for future events.
- Therapeutic Help: CBT, exposure therapy, and social skills coaching are all useful therapeutic modalities to help addiction recovery patients deal with the co-occurring mental health issues that may be exacerbating fears and anxiety. Ongoing treatment will help individuals maintain sobriety by dealing with root issues from a sober perspective.
- Medications: There are various medications, particularly in the antidepressant field, that can help addiction recovery patients handle increased reactions of fear and anxiety. These medications should be explored only in conjunction with ongoing treatment.
Fear and anxiety often contribute to substance misuse, which only serves to perpetuate an addictive disorder further. If you or someone you love is caught in this seemingly endless cycle of fear and anxiety-induced substance misuse, then Choice House has the dual-diagnosis treatment programs that can help. We offer men the opportunity to achieve and learn how to maintain sobriety, better preparing them to face their fears and reduce anxiety. Addiction recovery patients’ newfound sobriety allows them to start the process of healing and begin to address the underlying mental health issues at the root of their fear and anxieties. Located in the Boulder County area of Colorado, our addiction recovery treatment programs include a 90-day inpatient service, an intensive outpatient program, as well as the chance to take up residency at our sober living campus. Through various therapeutic modalities, men will build a new foundation based on love, understanding, and empathy. This foundation will serve as a source of stability from which to re-enter their independent lives as sober individuals. For more information regarding Choice House facilities or addiction recovery treatment services, please reach out and give us a call at (720) 577-4422.